Love it or hate it, most of our money habits are learned from our parents. While some people are fortunate enough to learn money-saving lessons that steer them towards the path of financial stability, others aren’t so lucky. Regardless of your parent’s style of teaching, you’ve developed at least one money habit witnessing their relationship with money.
Try as they might, our parents can’t teach us everything about money and credit. There are a few tough lessons we have to learn on our own.
Here are four important things about credit your parents might not have told you.
1. Don’t Assume Your Credit Reports Are Always Right
Due to the importance of the information that credit bureaus report on, one would assume the information would be accurate and pretty much impeccable. That isn’t always the case. An FTC study found that about 25% of consumers had errors on their credit reports. For this very reason, it is extremely important to check your credit report for errors. (You can get your credit reports for free once a year under federal law.) After all, who better to look after your information than you?
A few years ago during a credit report review, I realized that one of my student loans was reporting twice. This loan happened to be my largest, and while the double-reporting didn’t adversely impact my credit score, it drastically increased my debt-to-income ratio, which could have been problematic if I was in the market for a home or another big purchase.
2. The Value of Good Credit
Good credit means that you will get the best deal when financing. Bad credit is not just embarrassing and limiting, it’s expensive. A poor credit score usually means higher interest rates, deposits when opening new utility accounts and even higher insurance premiums. It is estimated that good credit can save a consumer hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. (You can see where you stand by pulling your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
3. It Is Hard to Build & Easy to Destroy
Our parents often told us to make our payments on time to maintain good credit and that’s very good advice. What they probably didn’t explain was what actually happens when a payment or two is missed and just how difficult it can be to earn your good score back. They great thing is that credit scores aren’t permanent; you can work your way back to a positive standing. The bad thing is that since credit scores aren’t permanent you don’t earn passes or a “get out of jail free card” for positive payment history. A missed payment can drop your score by as much as 100 points.
4. Credit Cards Aren’t Evil
It’s very easy to hate the credit card companies and blame them for your money woes. But your relationship with your creditors will be based on your habits. Positive habits often equate to a positive experience and poor habits often lead to a strained relationship. That’s kind of just a rule of life.
Credit cards are a valuable tool in building or rebuilding credit. As long as you practice habits of a responsible credit user, your interactions with credit and creditors will be relatively congenial.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- What’s a Bad Credit Score?